A very interesting fossil was officially revealed to the public today at Canada’s Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. It looks like a statue, but it isn’t. It’s an actual dinosaur, hardened into stone — and it’s one of the clearest looks we’ve ever gotten at prehistoric life.
The beast is a nodosaur, a cousin of the ankylosaur (those guys with spiky balls on their tails). Nodosaurs didn’t have that extra weapon, but they were well-protected anyway with their bodies covered in large hard spikes.
The nodosaur was found by accident by blue-collar worker Shawn Funk, who was excavating some ground with a backhoe when he hit something unusual. “[It was] something much harder than the surrounding rock….row after row of sandy brown disks, each ringed in gunmetal gray stone.” Funk had found a 2,500-pound dinosaur fossil, and it was shipped to a museum in Alberta for study.
The dinosaur they found was 18 feet long and weighed around 3,000 pounds — and unlike most fossils that have been reduced to bones, this one looked exactly the same as when it lived. “We don’t just have a skeleton,” says Caleb Brown, a researcher at the Alberta museum. “We have a dinosaur as it would have been.”
How could this have happened? It’s believed the nodosaur fell into a river that emptied into the sea, where it sunk to the bottom and was preserved by sea mud (the mine where it was found was underwater millions of years ago). Scientists say this kind of fossilization is an incredibly rare occurance.
The discovery was made six years ago and in addition to the public unveiling, there will be a full article on the nodosaur in the June issue of National Geographic.